The anti-Zune sentiment didn’t take too long to crop back up. After having rave reviews since the launch of the product, Sunday, Joe Wilcox over at Betanews backhand complimented the device as the “Best portable media player you may never buy.”
Alas, as this post’s title asserts: Zune HD is the best portable media player you may never buy, because most people will chose iPod touch. Apple’s marketing is better and there is a huge stock of mobile applications. Zune HD’s US-only distribution cuts it off from the world. What good is a device reviewers rave about that most nobody can buy?
There is no content, particularly games. Portable media players have matured into new entertainment categories Zune HD misses. Xbox 360 and Zune HD aren’t two peas in a pod, as they say. There’s no real integration. They’re more like two peas in the same field.
Before the Zune HD came out, I was even bearish on the product. In July, I echoed James Lewin’s analysis, wondering if the Zune could be nearing the end of it’s product life cycle:
It’s unfortunate, I think, that the end may be inevitable for the Zune. The Zune has always tried to compete on the same level with the iPod, but even Apple’s own efforts to push the envelope (with the iPhone) have cannibalized that particular market.
Moreover, it’s trivially easy to comb through eBay for an hour or two and find places to buy iPod knockoff devices direct from Asia that sell for less than a dollar a unit. With that sort of depreciated market, it’s hard to justify spending $100-$200 on an MP3 player.
As I’ve said before, I think the Zune gets mis-marketed, as I believe it’s almost more useful as a Roku-class device, as it seems to have a lot more functionality geared toward that end, due to it’s veg-factor compatibility and integrated marketplace (something it had way before Apple’s App Store).
But then the Zune HD came out:
Something that seldom happens to me happened after the Zune HD came out – silence. I didn’t have anything bad to say about it, mostly because the device fulfilled most of the expectations I had – the ability to use it as the Roku-style device in full high definition, as well as the ability to continue to take advantage of the slick interface and built-in App store.
Joe Wilcox does have a point, though – the app selection is a bit wanting. Zune Producer for Microsoft Rob Greenlee cops to that point in the comments of Podcasting News:
“Most of the reviewers agree that this is an outstanding portable media player and as you have even said, is an incredible player. […] Zune is charting its own path, but yet is working to catch-up to Apple in some areas and in other areas going beyond them. We all agree that more Apps would have been better for Zune and a large content catalog would help a lot.”
Will the lack of apps kill the device? Not if it’s marketed correctly – and as I’ve said before, the portable video entertainment powerhouse that it’s always been is the way to market this product.
Tacking on the HD to the end of the device’s name and continuing to push it as a way to view premium and indie content is the route to take to push this device into the mainstream – a tactic Microsoft seems invested in taking.